Is it possible to avoid a fine for a late tax return?

Melanie Richardson


HMRC is very strict when it comes to individuals filing their tax returns. If you do not return your self assessment submission by the stated deadline, a fine will be imposed.

I have missed the deadline for the postal submission of a tax return - what do I do?

If you have missed the deadline for postal submissions but the deadline for online submission has not yet passed, the best course of action for avoiding a fine is to use the online submission process. Do not send in your postal submission after the deadline for paper submissions, or you will receive a fine. This is the case even if the deadline for the online submission has not yet passed.

I have missed both the deadline for postal submission and online submission of my tax return

If you fail to return your online tax form by the stated deadline, HMRC will issue you with a fine. However, it is possible to appeal this. HMRC will consider waiving the fine if you are able to furnish them with a 'reasonable excuse.'

According to their website, HMRC define a 'reasonable excuse' as 'something unexpected or outside of your control that stopped you meeting a tax obligation'. Included within these unexpected circumstances are:

• The death of a partner
• Computer issues
• Hospitalisation
• Issues with HMRC's website

Since the decision to waive a fine is treated on a case by case basis, it may be worth contacting the tax office even if the circumstances do not appear on HMRC's list of reasonable excuses. However, the tax office is not particularly known for its leniency. It is likely that only the listed extenuating circumstances would lead to a fine being waived, and this would only be the case where it can be shown that the circumstances truly prevented you from submitting your form in time.

If a fine is not waived, the best course of action is to ensure that you are more fully prepared for the following tax year, to avoid the same issue recurring. Being aware of the deadline and ensuring you allow yourself plenty of time to fill in your tax return is the most sensible course of action, as is hiring an accountant to take care of the process for you.

We recommend using a trusted accountant to prepare and submit your tax returns to avoid late penalties and fees, we will keep you on track and on the right side of HMRC.

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